Rewiring Leadership Development

Rewiring Leadership Development

Rewiring Leadership Development is one of the many topics up for discussion during Learning Café Unconference Sydney 2015. In what follows, Liz Grifin takes us through an over view of the topic to prepare our minds for the bigger discussion.


In the recent World Economic Forum Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015, 86% of respondents think that there is a leadership crisis in the world today in relation to the government, corporate, not for profit, education, religious, media, health and international organisations. In light of this, the majority of respondents “prioritised training, coaching and mentoring as the best way to develop tomorrow’s leaders”. In a recent McKinsey article, “Decoding Leadership: What really matters”, 2015, over 90 percent of CEOs are already planning to increase investment in leadership development because they see it as the single most important human-capital issue their organizations face.” Several other recent global articles though, have questioned the current approach we are taking to leadership development. During this session, we will explore why current leadership development programs fail, critique the concept of best practice, investigate the importance of context and examine the emerging systems approach to talent management.

Point of View

Despite years of investment in leadership development, current research is questioning the quality of the return on this investment, based on some of the approaches that have been taken. One aspect of this is context. Understanding the context you are operating in is a critical component of impactful and sustainable leadership development. This context can involve a range of circumstances from a global perspective (e.g. geography, industry, type of market, etc) to specific organisational characteristics (e.g. the culture, leadership commitment, change readiness, etc). In many cases, the leadership behaviour that is required is also contextual. As a result, one size doesn’t fit all, so relying on general best practices is not always the answer to developing your leadership talent. Understanding the key levers and barriers of your context, exploring different types of approaches that best suit your context and taking a systems approach to talent development linked to business outcomes is key.

Learning Cafe POV

Leadership development has been the “sacred cow” for L&D. There is no debate that leaders and their development is important for the health of the organisation. However, do we spend too much attention, time and money on leadership development ? Indeed is leadership as important as it was before as we move away from a “command and control” organisation. Is a disproportionate amount of talent and budget of the learning function directed to leadership development ? It is better directed at employees and middle managers ? Or is there a need to increase the focus on leadership development as they face an increasingly complex and challenging world.

Leadership development design and delivery needs to target specific competencies, give personalized outcomes and utilise blended learning approaches. All this is possible if L&D professionals are willing to take the risk to move away from the formulaic approach and deliver more business value.

Big Questions

  • Why do leadership development programs fail?
  • How does the concept of “best practice” help or hinder the approach we have to designing leadership development within different contexts?
  • How well does your organisation take a systems approach to talent management?
  • What is your context and what are the key levers and barriers?

Facilitator Profile

Liz GriffinLiz Grifin – Executive Manager, Leadership Development at Commonwealth Bank. With a career in organisational development, learning and development, HR, line management and operations spanning 27 years, Liz’s experiences have encompassed the education, hospitality, airline and professional services sectors.